By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
A former vice president for Valley music promoter Safari Media has been arrested on fraud and racketeering charges.
The Utah Attorney General's Office charged Thuc Tri Nguyen, 36, with 11 second- and third-degree felonies. Prosecutors contend Nguyen sold more than $500,000 in unregistered Safari Media securities to deaf Utah investors in 1998 and 1999.
Nguyen, who is hearing-impaired, allegedly used his longtime contacts within the deaf community to gain the trust of potential investors. Shareholders were reportedly told that Safari stock was fully refundable and guaranteed to increase in value.
Not only was Safari unregistered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, prosecutors say Nguyen was not licensed to sell securities in Utah.
"He wouldn't really tell them what the stock was for," said Utah assistant attorney general Neal Gunnarson. "He would also tell one person the price would be worth $33, then turn around and tell another person it was something else."
Gunnarson said he has received calls from Safari Media investors in Arizona claiming to have been similarly defrauded by Nguyen.
Safari Media was a Tucson-based multimedia company owned by music promoters Mark and Mare Chisholm. Last year, the Arizona Attorney General's Office and Arizona Corporation Commission filed a civil lawsuit against the Chisholms claiming the couple sold $14 million in bogus stock to finance raves, shopping sprees, houses and cars. The company has been placed under receivership.
The Safari Media saga was chronicled in a New Times story ("Ecstatic Fall," James Hibberd, September 7, 2000) wherein Mare Chisholm claimed Nguyen was a con man and the sole mastermind behind the scam.
In September, assistant attorney general Moira McCarthy said prosecutors were confident in their exclusive focus on the Chisholms.
When asked if Nguyen's arrest will change that focus, McCarthy said, "I have no idea at this point."
McCarthy said the state's suit against the Chisholms has been halted because the couple filed for Chapter 11 protection. She says they're awaiting a judge's ruling to determine if the case can proceed.
Both McCarthy in Arizona and Gunnarson in Utah said they were previously unaware of each other's actions against Safari.
One law enforcement source said federal prosecutors are also considering filing charges against Nguyen.
Nguyen, who resides in Las Vegas, posted a $75,000 bond last week. He could not be reached for comment.